Sunday, June 19, 2011

Technology Infusion Proposal

My "Technology Infusion" Proposal

So, here is what I have proposed:

Per class of 24 students (pro-rated)
??Laptops (whatever leftover older machines we are allocated)
6 Netbooks
6 iPads
6 iPod Touch's
4 digital audio recorders
4 digital cameras.

Google Apps for Education so students can work on any machine interchangeably.

The reason I have set it up this way is that several machines cross-over and share jobs. I can send out the cameras, iPods, and even iPads to collect photos. Recorders, iPods and iPads can collect audio. Netbooks and iPads (and iPods in a pinch) can type and do web stuff. The iOS devices an run apps. I am convinced that, used properly, the iPad can be used to create great stuff, not just be a passive, viewing machine as some people suggest.

I think that, if the pilot project gets approved, I will be able to do some fantastic, creative projects with these tools. What's more, I hope that I can support other teachers in doing the same.

Fingers crossed!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beyond 1:1 - A Scary Leap

I have been doing some thinking over the past several months about how technology can be integrated in my classroom in a meaningful way.

Our school board is in a transition period. We have had 1:1 laptops for seven years. The machines are getting old, and it is time to buy new ones. There is a push to replace the machines with mainly Netbooks at this point as they are so much less expensive. Since the transition was left too late, many machines need to be replaced at once and we cannot afford to replace all the laptops at once with new laptops. I pointed out that we would not be able to do the same kind of multi-media stuff with the Netbooks as with the laptops. I was told that most teachers use the machines for web-viewing and typing, so we can at least maintain that with the Netbooks, then look at buying more machines to try to move things further.

While I understand that there are financial constraints, I don't believe that we should be buying for the lowest common denominator. I think that there are other teachers like me who want to do more. I began thinking about the tools that I would want to be using with students. I considered whether 1:1 was perhaps less important than being able to really create some neat stuff. What if I could trade 2 Netbooks in for an iPad? I could probably do some cool stuff with a few iPod Touch's for similar prices to Netbooks. What about the peripheral tools we never think to buy?

So I came up with a "Technology Infusion" plan that I think would be a whole lot more creative and useful than 1:1 Netbooks. My principal thinks it is fantastic and is proposing it as a pilot project for our cycle 2 (grades 3-4) students. It is kind of scary - seven years of 1:1 is a long time, habits form - but I am excited.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

PLN, Here I come!

I have been working towards building my personal learning network for three years. The biggest obstacle that I face is myself.

Every so often, I clear my feed-reader, spend a little time on Twitter, and say that I am going to get out there. Sometimes I even post a blog entry about the fact that I am going to start blogging again. Well, I read parts of my feed-reader for a few days. Twitter usually lasts a few days longer than that. Then I get busy, and I let it all drop for a while.

It is hard to build an consistent relationships with people without being consistent myself.

The other thing that slows me down is the temptation to lurk. It is so easy to spend all my time reading blogs and tweets that I sometimes have to remind myself to respond. You can't grow your PLN if nobody knows you are there! A conversation works two ways and you need to hold up your end if it is going to go anywhere.

So, here I am, ready to start again, but with a few differences.

  1. I am planning to build a habit. Instead of re- engaging haphazardly, I intend to build a habit that I can continue. 15 minutes a day. At least one blog post a week.  Once participation is a habit, it will be natural to find time for it.
  2. New outlook, new blog. I have started this blog in a symbolic gesture of putting the old habits behind me. This is a blog I intend to keep up with.
  3. I have already begun interacting with more people on Twitter. The next step is to comment on more blogs. Step 1: complete a blog post for the PLN Challenge and post a comment about it on that blog!

Next year, many teachers will be looking to me for leadership in technology integration.  I need a strong PLN that I can interact with in order to manage my personal growth as a teacher.

I'm off and running, PLN, here I come!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's All in How You Use 'Em

For two weeks now, I have been feeling both defiant and guilty.

Recently, I seem to be running into more and more frequent arguments against interactive whiteboards. A couple of weeks ago there was a post on The Tempered Radical blog by Bill Ferriter followed closely by another on Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension by Pernille Ripp. Neither on of them is in favour of IWBs.

For two weeks I have been feeling defiant because, when it comes down to it, I like my SmartBoard. A part of me, though, has also been feeling guilty for liking it because on some levels, I agree with them.

I agree, IWBs are not a fix-all that will integrate technology, create engagement in students, and otherwise solve every problem in the educational world. An IWB is one tool, and it is an expensive one. It is true that, if necessary, I would give up my IWB in favor of putting more tools in the hands of the students. Fortunately, I don't have to make that decision. My school board has prioritized technology. My students have had 1:1 laptops (although that is going to change. More on that tomorrow), and my school has a SmartBoard in every class.

In the absence of tough choices, I am guiltily defiant. I like my SmartBoard.

I believe that like any tool, it is all in how you use them. Generally, I think that IWBs are poorly used by the majority of teachers, but then, how many laptops in classrooms are being used as little more than typewriters?

I believe that we can use IWBs better.  Small groups of students can use them independently of the teacher. Teachers can work on the board with individuals who need extra help. They do not have to be fancy toys for the teacher to put on a show, or for individuals to use while the rest of the class watches and waits their turn.

Yes, at times, IWBs do end up being used by the teacher. There are times when I cannot rely on inquiry and projects, and I must directly teach a topic. At those times, using a SmartBoard helps me add some spark to what I am doing.  It helps me to use creative ways of covering less interesting topics.  Having made presentations with interactive elements, they can be passed on to the students as review materials.

So, since I am not giving up other technological tools in order to have it, I stand by liking my SmartBoard. I have also set myself a goal for next year.  I want to find ways of putting the board in the hands of students at least twice a week.

We'll see how it goes and what the students think of it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A New Beginning

After many failed attempts to keep up my old blog, I have decided to leave it behind and move forward.  This is a new blog with a fresh outlook and fresh intentions.  With the summer months before me, I hope to develop a habit that I will be able to carry forth into the new school year.

I am excited about this new space and the things that I will learn as I reflect.  The loose theme of this blog will be reflecting on my teaching in grade 4.  I suspect that my posts will often be related to my use of technology in teaching and learning.  Other times, I might write about a new approach in my classroom, a great picture book that I have found, what I am reading professionally, or simply, thoughts that I am having about how best to meet the needs of my students.

My previous blog, Conversations for Learning, was really a conversation with myself.  While it was a public space, it never had many visitors.  I will be leaving it up as I value it as a journaling experience.  It is my hope that as I "Blog Fourth," I will also be taking the time to generate some traffic here for a fuller blogging experience.

I'm on my way forward.
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